Edward Keeney (1922-2009)

Edward Keeney and Jane Wells Scott

Edward was born and raised at Gleann Domhain, outside Ardara where he started playing fiddle at the age of four. His first instrument, bought by his brother, Sonny for two shillings, was a tin fiddle made by Alec McConnell, the travelling tinsmith and fiddler. Sonny himself played accordion, while their father, Charlie was a concertina player, an instrument not usually associated with County Donegal. John Doherty was a regular visitor to the household and often played in the kitchen with Charlie and Sonny. Other players who Eddie remembers in his youth include John the Tae Gallagher, David Cunnea, John Gildea and John (Parnell) Keeney, but the local player who influenced him most was Paddy the Tae Gallagher. He also recalled the playing of Paddy Boyle (Paddy Bhilli na Rópaí), and how he danced and played simultaneously, particularly to the reel ‘The Wild Irishman’. In the early 1940s Edward regularly performed in a music and comedy duo with Packie Manus Byrne of Corkermore before  emigrating to New York in 1948 where he raised seven children with his wife, Julia. On retirement in 1976, Eddie concentrated more on his fiddle playing and his music came to the attention of radio stations and colleges such as West Hampton where he gave lectures and demonstrations. He played regularly and befriended other emigrant Donegal musicians including Tom Doherty, a melodeon player from the Mountcharles area. On relocating to Florida in 1990, Eddie’s fiddle playing came to the attention of, among others, Jane Wells Scott and they jointly participated in the Master Apprenticeship Program to study Irish fiddle music. He became an integral part of the Irish music scene there and in 1999 he was awarded a ‘Florida Folk Heritage’ award for his contribution to the music tradition of the State. Jane Wells Scott compiled and published ‘The Tallahassee Tunebook (1996) featuring 57 tunes collected from Eddie’s playing.

Eddie playing a reel rec. by Caoimhín MacAoidh in 1986

News cutting featuring Edward as a boy playing the fiddle ca. 1933

Eddie playing The Corn Rigs, rec. by Caoimhín MacAoidh in 1986